He first asteroid samples acquired by NASA from deep space contain twice as much material as scientists expected to obtain, according to a press release.
“The OSIRIS-REx sample is the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth and will help scientists investigate the origins of life on our own planet for generations to come,” said NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, in a statement. “Almost everything we know What we do at NASA seeks to answer questions about who we are and where we come from.”
Delivery took place last fall, but according to POT, it took longer than expected to obtain all the samples. Disassembly of the Touch-and-Go sample acquisition mechanism, TAGSAM, the system used to collect the samples, was halted due to two stuck fasteners.
After developing new tools, scientists from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration division, ARES, were able to open the capsule and collect the rest of the sample.
NASA said it will store 70% of the sample at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for future research by scientists around the world.
“Later this spring, the curating team will publish a catalog of the OSIRIS-REx samples, making the asteroid sample available for request by the global scientific community,” NASA said in the Press release.
What happened, according to NASA?
- In September 2023, NASA received an extraterrestrial delivery of its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft as it passed near Earth. Sent a capsule with the asteroid samples that were collected in 2020,
- The spacecraft released the capsule from 63,000 miles away and landed four hours later on a remote stretch of military terrain. AP News reported Inside the capsule was half a cup with samples from the 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid Bennu.
- Osiris was already on its way to collect samples from another asteroid, the AP reported, when the Bennu sample was strapped to a helicopter and taken to a temporary clean room at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range before being sent to the NASA Johnson Space Center.
- In October, NASA had collected 2.48 ounces (70.3 grams) of rocks and dust from the outside of the container containing TAGSAM, but scientists halted their research because of stubborn fasteners that wouldn’t open. The team needed the spacecraft to collect about 2.12 ounces and considered the mission a success despite the delay.
- In January 2024, they developed tools to safely remove the TAGSAM fasteners.
- In February, NASA announced it had fully opened TAGSAM and acquired the rest of the sample. A total of 4.29 ounces were collected from the asteroid.
What is OSIRIS-REx and what is its mission?
OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is a van-sized ship with solar panels powering it.
On his visit to Bennu, he collected samples from the asteroid’s surface and sealed them in a 3-foot-wide container called Sample return capsule. The capsule was equipped with a heat shield to protect it when delivering its sample to Earth.
The mission, excluding launch, cost $800 million.
“NASA missions like OSIRIS-REx will improve our understanding of asteroids that could threaten Earth while giving us a glimpse of what lies beyond,” Nelson said. “The sample has returned to Earth, but there is still a lot of science to be done – science like we have never seen before.”
Julia is a USA TODAY trends reporter. She has covered a variety of topics, from local business and government in her hometown of Miami to technology and pop culture. You can follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, instagram and Tik Tok: @juliamariegz.
Contributing: George Petras, Ramon Padilla and Janet Loehrke, USA TODAY.